A nice message from my neighbor Fr. Thomas Constantine in Boardman, Ohio (here) which applies to us Old Calendarists these last days of August.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Greetings in our Great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Kali Sarakosti!
The first fifteen days of August are very special days because they are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is a time to strict fast as we prepare for the Dormition, or falling asleep of the Mother of God in the Lord. As we celebrate the Paraclesis services practically every day, we exalt the Holy Virgin’s virtues, and, lift up to her in prayer our loved ones, for their health and well-being. We rightly and worthily glorify the Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos on these days out of all the days of the year with special solemnity. Unfortunately, there are many who actively dishonor the Mother of God, the saints, their icons, their relics and their festivals. By denying her and the saints, people only are hurting themselves. So many times have we seen miracles, answered prayers, and guidance from the Holy Virgin. She has shown only love for her Son, His Holy Church and everyone in it. The Holy Church glorifies the honorable Dormition or Translation of the Mother of God from earth to heaven. She died peacefully without serious illness. And we can learn her story in the icon and the Holy Tradition of the Dormition. Her soul was taken up in the divine hands of Her Son and carried up into Heaven, accompanied by the sweet singing of angels. Her most pure body was then transferred by the apostles to Gethsemane where it is honorably buried. We see according to Tradition that Thomas had not arrived on time for the funeral of the Holy Virgin. When he arrived on the third day after her passing away he insisted on seeing her in her tomb. Yet when they opened the tomb, her body was not there. She was, according to Tradition, resurrected and taken up to heaven. In the icon we see the life-bearing body of the Theotokos laying on a bier, surrounded by the apostles and hierarchs, and in the center of the icon the Lord holding in His hands the most pure soul of the Theotokos. The Mother of God, the Mother of Christ, upon her death, became the child of Christ.
When someone dies, we say that he or she has “fallen asleep” or “passed away.” What does this mean? This means that for the true Christian there is no death. Death was conquered by Christ on the cross. But there is a translation, a rearrangement of his condition. We say that his soul is in another place, in another age, or in another world beyond the grave, eternal, without end. That is what is meant by “falling asleep”. It is as if it were a temporary dream after which, by the voice of the Lord and the fearful trumpet of the Archangel, all the dead shall live and come forth each to his place: either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29). This is what the Christian means by translation. The Holy Virgin never feared death. In fact, she was ready to die for Christ even at the Cross of Christ. In a frightful time when all of the apostles had scattered to save themselves, the Panayia never left the side of her Son and her God. She had no fear. Day and night she spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went often to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord, and here she offered up fervent prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder her from visiting her holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone. On one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and announced her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In pledge of this, the Archangel gave her a palm branch. With these heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told them of her impending repose. Since her repose, she has shown her unending love for us all.
She is “quick to hear” and always answers our prayers and supplications. During these fifteen days of the Dormition of the Theotokos, make every effort to attend as many services as possible. Allow the Holy Virgin to intercede for us, and, allow her motherly love fill us. Let us all love our Lord, His Holy Mother, and all of the Saints with our whole heart, mind, and soul. In Christ, +Father Tom